The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Los Angeles has upheld the constitutionality of Proposition 2, the California ballot measure banning the inhumane confinement of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves in cages so small the animals cannot stretch their limbs, lie down, or turn around.
Acting on motions filed by The Humane Society of the United States and the California Attorney General, the Court rejected each and every challenge to the ballot measure, which was filed by a disgruntled California egg producer earlier this year.
In upholding the measure, the Court concluded that "Proposition 2 establishes a clear test that any law enforcement officer can apply, and that test does not require the investigative acumen of Columbo to determine if an egg farmer is in violation of the statute." The Court chastised the plaintiff for filing the case, noting that "the mere fact that Plaintiff dislikes or disagrees with the policy or language of Proposition 2 is not sufficient to sustain a Constitutional challenge."
"We are delighted the Court has sided with the millions of California voters who supported this measure, and chose humane treatment over extreme confinement practices," says Jonathan R. Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation for The Humane Society of the United States. "Proposition 2 is a simple, basic humane standard that is easy to understand, and well within the State's broad legal authority to prevent animal cruelty."
California Proposition 2 was enacted in 2008 by a statewide vote of 63.5 to 36.5%. It won in 47 of 58 counties, including in many top agricultural and rural counties. The measure granted producers a phase-in period of more than six years to transition to more humane housing systems, and is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.
The Humane Society of the United States, the main backer of the measure, and egg producers in California and nationwide are working together in the U.S. Congress to pass federal legislation— the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments, S. 3239 sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and H.R. 3798 sponsored by Reps. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., Elton Gallegly, R-Calif., Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Jeff Denham, R-Calif.—that would extend the humane protections of Proposition 2 to the entire U.S. egg industry and phase out the use of barren battery cages over the next 15 to 18 years. A very limited number of farmers have begun to invest in enriched colony housing systems, which provide each bird with nearly double the amount of space as well as nesting areas and scratch pads so they can engage in more natural behaviors, in hopes that this legislation will pass and provide clarity for what is acceptable hen housing in all states in the future.
"Animal welfare groups and the egg industry had a divisive battle over Prop 2, but have now come together and found a solution that is good for animal welfare, the egg industry, and consumers," says Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "With this lawsuit behind us, it's now more clear than ever that Congress needs to pass a federal bill supported by all the major stakeholders—which would give protections not only to California's 20 million laying hens but to all 285 million hens in the nation, and give egg producers a level playing field that provides stability and security for their industry."